B-25 Mitchell in Action by Ernest R. McDowell

By Ernest R. McDowell

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Crossbows passed out of use late in the 12th century. The catapults used were Chinese-style traction trebuchets, and in fact the best account of their use, which dates horn 1468, describes them throwing soft-cased exploding bombs not against a yamashiro's castle walls but against the samurai defending the rudimentary palisades set up during the Onin War. Traction trebuchets appear in a clearly defensive role for a castle when the Mori family attacked Takiyama castle and were met by smooth river stones loosed from catapults.

The result was that the mighty fortresses we see today became the centre of a daimyo's territory in a more decisive and defined way than ever before. When wars ceased the castles also became the focus of the castle towns that had grown up beside them, and these in turn were to become the Japanese cities of today. Commerce flourished, particularly in Edo and Osaka, but tragedy struck many old castles in the mid-19th century. The influence of the shogun had long been declining in the face of western incursions, and there were moves afoot for the abolition of the Shogunate and the restoration of imperial power.

During the siege of Chokoji castle in 1570 a decisive moment was reached when the besiegers succeeded in cutting the aqueduct that supplied the garrison. All the defenders then had left were the meagre supplies stored in huge storage jars. This led to the celebrated incident when Shibata Katsuie smashed the jars and led his men out in a desperate assault that actually won the battle for them. The Zohyo Monogatari further notes that: During sieges on a yamashiro when there is no further water the throat becomes parched and death can result.

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